CENTURY BATTERIES AUSTRALIAN GT PRODUCTION CAR CHAMPIONSHIP
WINTON QUALIFYING 8th AUGUST 1998
FITZGERALD'S CHAMPIONSHIP HOPES SHATTERED
Reigning champion Peter Fitzgerald now faces an even tougher job of defending his crown after a disastrous qualifying session for round seven of the Century Batteries Australian GT Production Car Championship at Winton today.
Trailing fellow Porsche 911 RSCS driver Domenic Beninca by only nine points, Fitzgerald put his machine on the front row alongside John Bowe’s Ferrari F355 Challenge in the opening session, but finished the second session on the in-field.
The Melbourne driver had his throttle jam shut after only three laps, forcing him to start from seventh on the grid for tomorrow’s second race.
"I suppose having the throttle jammed shut is better than it being jammed open, but it is still very disappointing," Fitzgerald said.
"It was going to be hard enough to try to chase down Domenic with only four races left, but things are going to be even tougher now.
"Winton is a very tough cirucit to pass on, so I really am going to work hard to find my way through the traffic."
Fitzgerald's team will be working extra hard after qualifying with his mechanics also attending to Ross Almond’s Mitsubishi Lancer Evo V which suffered problems with its new Adelaide-built engine.
Almond's machine from last year, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo III also struck problems with a blown turbo with new owner John Trimbole at the wheel.
Bowe performed strongly to grab pole position for both races tomorrow aboard the Ferrari with young Porsche 911 RSCS driver Rodney Forbes also performing strongly.
Championship leader, Beninca, could only manage fourth and third in the two sessions.
Chris Kousparis dominated the opening Class B qualifying session aboard his Subaru Impreza WRX, but Murray Carter (Nissan 200SX) and Dean Canto (Subaru Impreza WRX) pipped him in the second session with only 4/100ths of a second covering the three drivers.
Mark Cohen (Holden Commodore VS SS) threw down the challenge to Class C championship leader David Ratcliff (Toyota Camry CSi) by taking the fastest time in both sessions.
AFL media personality Sam Newman performed well in his GTP debut, despite a single spin in both individual sessions.
Michael Simpson looks set to return to his winning ways by dominating the GTP Lights Class D qualifying today.
Simpson (BMW 323i) was actually 12th outright in the afternoon session - out running Ric Shaw (Toyota MR2 Bathurst) and Phil Kirkham’s Mazda 626 which performed well after an overnight engine change.
Kosi Kalaitzidis drove strongly to qualify second fastest aboard the Proton M21 Coupe in both sessions for the GTP Lights Class E battle. Nigel Stones (Suzuki Swift GTi) again dominated proceedings and looks set to possibly wrap up the championship this weekend.
QUALIFYING RACE ONE 1. John Bowe, Ferrari F355 Challenge 1:28.981 2. Peter Fitzgerald, Porsche 911 RSCS 1:29.155 3. Rodney Forbes, Porsche 911 RSCS 1:29.309 4. Domenic Beninca, Porsche 911 RSCS 1:30.822 Class B Chris Kousparis, Subaru Impreza WRX 1:36.587 Class C Mark Cohen, Holden Commodore VS SS 1:41.050 Class D Michael Simpson, BMW 323i 1:37.844 Class E Nigel Stones, Suzuki Swift GTi 1:42.013
RACE TWO 1. John Bowe, Ferrari F355 Challenge 1:28.549 2. Rodney Forbes, Porsche 911 RSCS 1:29.240 3. Domenic Beninca, Porsche 911 RSCS 1:30.160 4. Ed Aitken, Porsche 911 RSCS 1:30.869 Class B Murray Carter, Nissan 200SX 1:36.446 Class C Mark Cohen, Holden Commodore VS SS 1:40.817 Class D Michael Simpson, BMW 323i 1:38.098 Class E Nigel Stones, Suzuki Swift GTi 1:42.003